LONDON — A couple of years ago, struggling financially, Dustin Brown used to travel across Europe in a camper van without a permanent coach. Only the boldest bookmakers will now bet that he will return to this lifestyle after claiming the biggest win of his career on Wednesday at Wimbledon.
Sporting long dreadlocks and gifted with an old-fashioned serve and volley style of play, Brown won his first match in the Wimbledon main draw earlier this week. He then achieved his best Grand Slam performance by reaching the third round with a surprise win over former champion Lleyton Hewitt.
Hewitt was overwhelmed by Brown's aggressive strokes and unorthodox style of play as the German qualifier came through 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-2.
"I've had a couple chances already on the big stage to do well," said the 189th-ranked qualifier. "But always, when I've been this close, something happened or got in the way. I guess it helped that I'm playing Lleyton Hewitt there. I'm like, Okay, what can I do? I just got to keep playing maximum two more sets. Win or lose, just go with it, just keep playing, try your best."
Brown, who was born in Germany to a Jamaican father and a German mother, changed nationality from Jamaican to German in 2010 because of the lack of financial support from the Jamaican federation. He moved to Jamaica as a 12-year-old boy and can speak Jamaican patois, German and English.
A big server, Brown is naturally attracted to the net. Against Hewitt, he tried his luck at the net 87 times and hit 74 winners. He won the first set with a diving forehand volley and produced some beautiful drop shots throughout the match.
Brown stopped driving the camper van that his parents had offered him years ago.
"I still have the van. It's parked in Germany at my parents' place," he said. "Just going from tournament to tournament, you can't do it."
But Brown promised that his newly found fame would not change him, and said he will keep his flamboyant look.
"I've looked like this for 28 years, so I'm pretty much used to it," the 28-year-old Brown said. "Everyone that didn't know me before today, they have to get used to it. I'm not going to change."
Boosted by the support of his vocal Australian supporters, Hewitt managed to win the third-set tiebreak but could not turn the match round.
"He's very unpredictable out there," Hewitt said. "It's tough. You don't know what's going to happen next."
The dreadlocked Brown was in tears after beating the former No. 1-ranked player.
"I cried like a little girl," he said. "Just happy and emotional and everything. I have a lot of friends here, my coach is here, my girlfriend is here. I'm very happy about everything. Yeah, just been a very long way. Just happy that I actually got through the match."
During his post-match press conference, Brown wore a T-shirt with a picture of himself designed by a couple of his friends. Does he plan to make a business out them to make ends meet?
"I only have three, so no," he said.